Cirque du Soleil's 'Amaluna' casts a magical spell

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 27, 2013 - 2:01 PM

REVIEW: Tony-winning director Diane Paulus bases her Cirque du Soleil show on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

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Amy McLendon in "Amaluna," a new Cirque du Soleil show directed by Diane Paulus.

In “The Tempest,” headman Prospero has magical powers to dim the noontime sun and call forth “mutinous winds” in the island realm where he reigns. In “Amaluna,” Diane Paulus’ tent treatment of the Shakespearean drama, the magical powers seem to belong to, among others, Lara Rigolo Jacobs.

Jacobs plays the“balance goddess” in “Amaluna,” Cirque du Soleil’s mesmerizing and mythic show that opened Thursday at the Mall of America. Her 15-minute act in the second half of the production is literally breathtaking as you find yourself trying not to exhale in order to help her keep her concentration.

Jacobs, who dramatically casts spells on her props before she begins, starts the act by standing in an assembly of loose palm fronds of various sizes. She slowly puts one atop another and begins to balance them in thin air. By the end of the act, she has built a big armature that looks like the rib cage of some Jurassic whale.

It’s a highly dramatic performance whose effect comes not just from the spell she casts on the dried palm pieces but from the fact that it contrasts with much of what surrounds it.

Over the years, Cirque du Soleil has rightly been celebrated for the phenomenal athleticism of its Olympic-style performers, many of whom have freakish and unusual talents. Such jaw-droppers are present in spades in “Amaluna,” one of the best Cirque shows to come to the Twin Cities.

In “Amaluna,” director Paulus transposes both the “Tempest” story and characters. Women are lords of the realm here, with Prospera (Julie McInnes) conducting the action. Her daughter, Miranda (Julia Mykhailova), is drawn to Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin).

Kurkin stands out, literally, for his deft skill of climbing a Chinese pole then, without a harness or any apparent safety devices, dropping fast headfirst, then using his hands to stop just inches from the floor.

Mykhailova, who has remarkably physical strength and dexterity, teams with Leysan Gayazova in a thrilling performance with a water bowl.

“Amaluna” is about female power and grace, and Amy McClendon displays both in her Peacock Dance.

Juggler Viktor Kee, who also plays a half-human, half-lizard character named Cali, takes off his long tail to show his unusual abilities. Squatting while juggling, he is able to place multiple balls on his back so that, in fact, they resemble a reptile’s spine.

On the uneven bars, gymnasts Amara Defilippo, Melissa Fernandez, Summer Hubbard, Lindsey Bruck-Ayotte, Melanie Sinclair, Brittany Urbain and Laura-Ann Chong deliver a dizzying array of tumbles.

Renee Koehler, Kylee Maupoux and Adreanne Nadeau zoom through the air on straps, fierce as the Valkyries they represent.

If the two-hour show feels short, it is not because we have been cheated.

“Amaluna” is a power-packed delight of mythic images and spell-binding acts. 

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

  • AMALUNA

    Who: Directed by Diane Paulus.

    When: 8 p.m. Fri., 4:30 & 8 p.m. Sat., 1:30 & 5 p.m. Sun., 8 p.m. Tue.-Thu. Ends Oct. 20

    Where: North Lot, Mall of America, Bloomington.

    Tickets: $40-$130. 1-866-624-7783

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